To say that the college football world was shocked after the University of Florida Gators football team shocked Ole Miss at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, better known as “The Swamp” this past Saturday would be the understatement of the week. The Gators came into the game as underdogs at home, and barely ranked in the top 25, but when all was said and done, the Rebels left Gainesville limping, confidence bruised, as a new team took center stage heading into week six of the 2015 season.
Give first-year Gators’ head coach Jim McElwain credit. He took on a program that was in dire need of a rebuild, and had to do so with a roster chalk full of his predecessor’s recruits. McElwain accepted the challenge head-on, and not only has started the season 5-0, and ranked again for the first time since, well, a long time, he has his boys believing in something bigger. With three conference wins under their belts, the Gators are rolling. But can they do the impossible and run the table through the remainder of their tough schedule?
The Gators travel to Columbia, Missouri to take on a 4-1 Missouri Tigers’ team that has upset on their mind, and a raucous home crowd awaiting the new darlings of college football. Say the Gators find a way to escape with a win, the very next week, the team travels to Baton Rouge to face LSU and the Tigers. If you didn’t know, the Tigers are currently the number seven-ranked team in the country. Back-to-back road games in the SEC can be the death knell for a team that is feeling good about their season.
After Missouri and LSU, the Gators get to enjoy their annual Jacksonville match-up with in-conference rival, Georgia, who is coming off of a whipping at home from the Crimson Tide. That loss could potentially send the Bulldogs into a tailspin, and the Gators may be the beneficiaries of a program trying to regroup. So let’s say out of those three games, the Gators go 2-1, with the one loss being to the Tigers down in Baton Rouge. That takes their record to 7-1 heading into the softer portion of their conference schedule.
Vanderbilt at home should be a gimme, and then a match-up with the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier at South Carolina. For some reason, this game always takes on more importance than it really should. Perhaps it’s because of the blue and orange bloodline connecting Spurrier the former Heisman winner and national championship coach, to his former program. With a pair of wins, the Gators run their record to 9-1, as they come down the home stretch. Florida Atlantic should be a beating for the ages, and then the final regular season rivalry game with the much-hated Florida State Seminoles. College football is always a better product when BOTH the Gators and Seminoles are competing for national prominence. With that game being in The Swamp, I’m giving the edge to the Gators.
Jim McElwain could be setting himself up as National Coach of the Year if he and the Gators can run their record to 11-1, and staring an SEC championship game square in the face. Right now, it’s too early in the season to predict who comes from the SEC West as the title game opponent, but Texas A&M, along with LSU, Ole Miss, and Alabama have to be considered the favorites. With the new playoff system in place, the Gators could potentially have a clear path to the national championship game. That is a ton of ifs, but for a program that has been down since Urban Meyer bolted town, they seem to be in firm control of their own destiny the rest of the way.